Police: Man charged with two rowhome murders tried to set victims' bodies on fire (UPDATED)
Police today charged David Williams, 23, for the deaths of two men whose bodies were found in an abandoned house on the 1700 block of West Erie Avenue.
In a plot that seems straight out of crime drama The Wire, authorities today announced the arrest of a suspect in connection with two separate murders after police this weekend found two bodies inside the same Tioga home.
Officers first responded to the house on the 1700 block of West Erie Avenue at 12:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon for a report of a person with a gun, investigators said. They found in the basement the body of 26-year-old Anthony Hicks, who had been shot in the head.
Police several hours later took in for questioning 23-year-old David Williams, who they stopped on the 1600 block of Pike Street in Nicetown. Authorities said that, though the home on Erie Avenue was not formally occupied, Hicks was known to reside there with Williams as his housemate. "We knew that he lived with the victim and he's had prior contact with police," Homicide Lt. Mel Williams said. "And as a result of that, officers in that area knew who he was and stopped him for further investigation."
A missing persons report filed by family members of the third victim, Robert Jones, who was also known to spend time at the Erie Avenue home with Hicks and Williams, led investigators back to the property, Lt. Williams said. "After reading everything and having Mr. Williams here and [Jones'] family saying Mr. Jones does frequent that location sometimes, that made me send my investigators back out there to check the house again and make sure we didn't miss anything," Lt. Williams said.
Officers returned around 4 p.m. on Sunday and found Jones in a second-floor bedroom. He had been shot multiple times in the head and chest and was covered with lime, something that's often done in an attempt to speed up the decomposition process. His body was buried beneath trash, coats and other debris in a room littered with clothing, according to Lt. Williams.
"With so much debris and trash, [Williams] basically covered him up," Lt. Williams said. "One of the things we obviously didn't do effectively – and I'll take blame for that – but at end of the day, we're supposed to check every house. He was found under debris and lime and things like that. The whole room was a mess and the whole house was a mess, so we had to actually walk through the house in order to find him, which we should have done."
David Williams was arraigned shortly before 5:30 a.m. this morning and is charged with two counts each of murder, arson, causing a catastrophe, criminal mischief and firearms offenses. He is next due in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 19.
Investigators said the arson charges were filed because they believe Williams may have tried to set the house on fire after the slayings. "There was some type of lighter fluid that I guess you could smell and there was a gas can around there," Lt. Williams said. "And what you had was the floor in the kitchen, part of it was charred, as well as a wall that leads down to the basement. He was trying to do something, obviously. Thank God he was not able to set the house on fire."
Williams said the discovery of bodies in neglected or vacant homes has not been a common occurrence during his seven years with the Homicide Unit. But at his former assignment in the Narcotics Unit, he often saw vacant properties being used by those engaged in the drug trade. "It's always easy to use a vacant house because there's nothing to tie you
with that house," he said. "And if it's vacant, they always have the front entrance open and if they think police are coming up in there, they can come out of the back."
He said the Erie Avenue killings stemmed from an argument between the three men, who he described as "associates." Though the property was not vacant, he believes the men were using it to house a criminal operation. "They have a lot of activity there," he said. "My investigation indicates that they were selling drugs out of there."
Authorities today also provided updates on two other homicides from this weekend. Investigators released the identity of the 17-year-old shot and killed on the 2000 block of South Croskey Street in Girard Park Saturday night. That teen is Daquan Parker, of the 2500 block of South 6th Street near Porter Street in South Philadelphia.
No arrests have yet been made in connection with his death.
Police did arrest a suspect in connection with the murder of 20-year-old Victor Rodriguez, who was shot and killed on the 300 block of South 52nd Street early Sunday morning. An off-duty Chester City police officer who was on the scene took into custody the alleged shooter.
That man has today been identified as 27-year-old Quinton Frierson, also known as Quinton Ferguson, of the 5600 block of Carpenter Street in West Philadelphia. Frierson was arraigned shortly after 1:15 a.m. this morning and is charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, reckless endangerment and firearms offenses. He is next due in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 19.